Geography: Overwhelming Complexity and Consistency
The Book of Mormon contains over 600 geographical references to over fifty separate geographical locations. (See: Mormon’s Codex, John L. Sorenson, p. 119) The book often describes the relative locations of these places with their directions and distances from other locations.
For example, Bountiful is south of the land Desolation, bordering on the narrow neck of land, north of the land Zarahemla (Al. 22: 2932; Hel. 1: 26-29; 4: 5-6; 3 Ne. 3: 23), north of Jershon (Al. 27:22), beyond Mulek (Al. 51:26-32; 52: 17-27), and bordering on the west sea (Al. 63:5).
For instance, is Zarahemla. It is a city on the west of Sidon (Al. 2:15; 6:7), in the center of the land (Hel. 1:18-27), south of Bountiful (Al. 22:32; Hel. 1:27-29)
A case in point is Helam. It is eight days journey from Lehi-Nephi (Mos. 23:3,20), and twelve days journey from the valley Alma (Mos. 24:25).
Several students and scholars have taken hundreds of hours to map out all of these geographical references. They have proven that the complex relative locations and distances are accurate and consistent. (“Mormon’s Map,” Mormon’s Codex, John L. Sorenson, 16 pages of maps starting at p. 267) (However, these scholars do not agree on where these geographical locations match the topography of the Western Hemisphere, although most believe that the locations are in Mesoamerica.)
To believe that Joseph Smith could have created and maintained these complex geographical locations accurately and consistently, over dozens of chapters, without charts and notes, while orally dictating the Book of Mormon, is — inconceivable!
Complex Group Migrations
Adding to the overwhelming complexity of the geography are the large and small group migrations. There are three major groups, the Nephites, the Mulekites, and the Jaredites. There are numerous smaller groups. Trying to keep track of the migrations of all of these groups is like trying to line up a hundred wiggling earthworms end to end.
Complicated Travels Between the Lands of Nephi and Zarahemla
To appreciate the complexity, here is my description of just the interactions between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla during a single century:
First, finding that living among the Lamanites was becoming unbearable, Mosiah leads a Nephite migration from the Land of Nephi to the Land of Zarahemla. (Omni 1:12-23) When they arrive, they meet the Mulekites, re-educate them, and join together. (Mos. 25:2; Omni 1: 14,15,19)
Second, either because of homesickness, or to re-establish Lehi’s roots, a large group leaves Zarahemla to return to the Land of Nephi. Before they arrive, dissension leads to battle, and only fifty survive to return to Zarahemla. ((Omni 1: 27-28; Mos. 9:1-2)
Third, years later, Zeniff, “being overzealous to inherit the land of our forefathers,” leads a group back from Zarahemla to the Land of Nephi. There, they are overpowered and enslaved by the Lamanites. (Mos. 9:22; Omni 1:29)
Fourth, seeking rescue, forty-three scouts are sent to search for Zarahemla. They fail to find Zarahemla, and instead discover the remains of the extinct Jaredite nation. Assuming they have discovered the ruins of Zarahemla, the scouts return to the Land of Nephi with the bad news and the plates of Ether. (Mos. 8: 7-9; 21: 25-27; 28: 11-17) Learning of the destruction of Zarahemla, the people of Zeniff make no more attempts to return.
Decades pass. Wicked King Noah has succeeded Zeniff as Nephite King in the Land of Nephi. Alma, with a group of converts, escape from Noah.
Meanwhile, the Nephites back in Zarahemla, have received no communication from the Land of Nephi since Zeniff left.
Fifth, they become worried and send Ammon with sixteen “strong men” to the Land of Nephi.
When Ammon arrives, Limhi has replaced Noah as king. Limhi relates the story of the forty-three scouts and expresses joy that Zarahemla was not destroyed after all.
Sixth, led by Ammon, Limhi’s people flee from Lamanite bondage and return to Zarahemla. (Mos. 7: 22)
Seventh, later, Alma and his group, also arrive safely in Zarahemla.
The diverse groups are reunited.(Mos. 24:16-25)
Most educated readers cannot keep track of the complex migrations and journeys in the Book of Mormon without charts and diagrams, if at all. (I rely on charts and diagrams to keep it straight.)
Just reading and understanding this article is enough to make your head spin.
How is it possible that Joseph Smith, an uneducated farm boy, could have fabricated and orally dictated the geography and journey, without notes, off the top of his head? Inconceivable!
In sum, Joseph Smith is the prophet translator of the Book of Mormon. He is not its author and creator.
(Number 3 of 27 Articles)
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